“Quorum sensing” in human groups

Bruce Dickson
8 min readAug 14, 2019

#3 in a series related to a live event script on values

“Quorum sensing” is a clumsy term scientists use to talk about ‘collective decision-making’ in bacteria and animals. Here’s is a digest version for Greens and Progressives.

For a long time in bio-chemistry, bacteria were believed to exist merely as individual cells seeking nutrients and multiplying. Around the year 2000, “quorum sensing” began to be studied.

Simply put, bacteria chemically message each other continually. When the population of a certain bacteria increases to a certain threshold, the intensity of messaging also crosses a threshold. The cross of a threshold of messaging activity is recognized by the entire groups. This triggers a group expression towards a shared group benefit.

In human terms, above a certain intensity of mutual messaging, bacteria recognize they are no longer “in the minority” in this area in this host. An intensity of mutual messaging tells them they are now so numerous, they can attack the host more forcefully towards a collective takeover of the host in these tissues.

Quorum sensing explains “virulence”

Quorum sensing is used to explain “virulence.” At an advanced stage of infection, the bacteria no longer act as separate solo organisms. They behave more like a collective, single organism with its own intelligence, aims and goals — however unpleasant to animal and human hosts. When bacteria signal each other massively, “It’s time to march!” doctors and hospitals call this “virulence.” Quorum sensing is a collective attempt to move, march and conquer,

Q: What can we learn from bacteria for Green human orgs?

A: The ability to communicate with one another allows bacteria to recognize “how much company it has” of other bacteria with identical “values and goals.” Each single bacteria is “empowered,” recognizing they are part of a larger group consensus. Based on shared values — they “march.”

Find a good, non-anthropomorphic description of quorum sensing here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11544353

In human terms, the group “votes” for action when the local density of brothers and sisters with the same values crosses a…